This gorgeous, hand-painted tile was made by Minton Manufacturer around the 1870s. Recently the Vigo County Historical Society acquired this tile and it will be displayed for your pleasure.

On the back of the tile is the manufacturer’s stamp and handwritten areas. There is the signature of the famous miniature artist, Amalia Kussner of Terre Haute. The tile measures 6-by-6 inches and has an ebonized frame. It is painted on ivory and the color of the delicate paint is in superb condition. On the tile is an engraving of “Animo Non Astutia.” The Scottish arms stand for “Courage not Cunning” and was named for Sir Adam Gordon.

Kussner was born in Crawfordsville, on March 26, 1863. She was born of immigrant German parents, Lorenz and Emilie Kussner. Her parents moved to Terre Haute when she was still a baby. Her father was a gifted musician and trained as a piano repairman. He bought the Old State Bank building, using it as their residence and ran a music store called "The Palace of Music" at 213 Ohio St. There, he would repair musical instruments.

Amalia was the youngest of three children and all of them were very gifted. Her sister, Louise, was a vocalist and her brother, Albert, was an accomplished pianist/composer. All of them had a very good education and spoke German, French, Spanish and English fluently. At age 6, Amalia was admitted to St. Mary-of-the-Woods and, under the tutelage of Sister Maurice, founder of the college’s museum, she received all the encouragement as a talented child artist. Later, she graduated from the Public High School. After graduation, she went to New York and studied under Madam de Silva and Mrs. Bradshaw. However, she received no formal training as a miniature portraitist. She was determined to make this hundreds-years-old delicate art popular in America.

At this time, artists were experimenting with impressionism, symbolism or cubism, but Amalia was determined to revive this delicate art, which was getting crushed with the advent of the camera.

She used rejected ivory piano keys as her base material on which she painted miniature portraits, using delicate, pastel colored paints. Sometimes, she used porcelain tiles and painted on them, which were used around the fireplaces.

In the early 1890s, she lived in New York with her mother and brother. She tried to make a living as a miniature portraitist and, with her persistence and talent, it became quite popular among the wealthy elitists of New York.

In 1897, she was commissioned to paint Edward, the Prince of Wales who later became Edward VIII. In this portrait, he was painted as the Knight of Malta.

In 1899, she was invited to Russia and painted miniature portraits of the czar, Czarina Alexandra, as well as the Grand Duke Vladimir’s wife, Maria and Grand Duchess Ellen.

After Russia, she went to South Africa and made the portrait of the Diamond King, Cecil Rhodes.

Upon returning from Africa in 1900, she married Capt. Charles Du Pont Coudert of New York. Amalia did little painting after her marriage. In 1914, she settled down in Windlesham Hall, an English manor near London and became a British citizen. The couple had no children. She died in Switzerland in 1932 of a lung ailment.

Amalia Kussner led a fascinating life and brought back an almost dying art for all to enjoy and appreciate. It only took her talent, tenacity and enthusiasm.

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